Over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic has caused people to reshape countless events, including one of the world’s biggest spectacles. The Super Bowl has traditionally sold out stadiums around the country, but due to health concerns this year, the National Football League decided to limit attendance to 22,000 fans at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
While not having an assigned seat in the crowd, Cheshire’s Shannon Lindsey was honored to get to experience the big game up close.
A sophomore at the University of Tampa, Lindsey attended Super Bowl LV as a Way-Finding Teammate to direct people inside and out of the stadium. Along with seeing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win 31-9 over the Kansas City Chiefs, she was able to watch musical performances at the stadium.
“I’ve watched the Super Bowl for a long time,” reflected Lindsey. “I was excited to finally work at it.”
Her Super Bowl journey started when she moved to Tampa last year. After graduating from Cheshire High School in 2019, Lindsey originally attended the University of Vermont to study and swim for the school, but after needing to have knee surgery for the second time, she decided that the time was right to stop competing.
“Giving up swimming was one of the hardest things that I have had to do,” recalled Lindsey. “If I couldn’t swim anymore, I needed to find secondary outlets.”
Since she has a passion for the management side of sports, she felt that the University of Tampa had a more compatible curriculum and decided to transfer to the school.
In the fall of last year, Lindsey looked into sports internships and heard about NFL opportunities through Professor Michael Flynn.
In October and November, Lindsey applied to work for the NFL.
“I was hoping to get a spot,” reflected Lindsey. “Since I’m an intern in the athletic department at my school, I have experience working in sports. I’m on the Dean’s List and also hold multiple positions in my sorority (Alpha Chi Omega), so I know how to manage my time.”
To her delight, she was accepted into the Fan Services Administration and the NFL Experience. For the services program, she answered phone calls, emails, and event questions about Super Bowl LV and the NFL Super Bowl Experience, and prepared radios for staff members.
“We also made sure that guests had a good experience at their events,” added Lindsey.
From the middle of January through Feb. 6, she worked at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay. Lindsey volunteered in the 8 a.m.-to-3 p.m. and the 3-to-10 p.m. time slots, so time management was key for her.
“I made sure to work around the schedule with my professors,” stated Lindsey, who is majoring in public relations and advertising. “They respect how hard I work and were easy-going with everything.”
Through the NFL Experience, Lindsey got her opportunity to work at the Super Bowl. The program traditionally plans local family events in the host city.
Even with safety protocols in place this year, fans were still able to participate in activities like taking photos with the Lombardi Trophy or competing in challenges against NFL players.
“At the NFL Experience and the Super Bowl, everybody had to wear masks as a requirement,” said Lindsey, who spent time volunteering at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa. “We made sure to wear two masks on our face and the NFL provided PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kits for us.”
A couple days before the big game, Lindsey met with other workers to get their assignments at the stadium.
“While we were there, we got to watch (recording artist) The Weeknd practice for the halftime show. That was a lot of fun,” stated Lindsey.
On game day, she worked at the stadium from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. As a Way-finder, Lindsey waited outside to assist fans.
“It was important to make sure that people went to the right gates for safety reasons,” stated Lindsey. “You wanted to have social distancing coming into the stadium.”
Among the crowd, she loved that 7,500 vaccinated health-care workers were given free admission to this year’s Super Bowl.
“I thought that it was an awesome reward for people who have worked so hard during the pandemic,” said Lindsey.
Along with assisting people at the stadium, Lindsey enjoyed watching singer/actress Miley Cyrus practice and then perform in a concert for health-care workers on a stage from 2:30-5 p.m.
“It was great to watch the show,” Lindsey recalled. “I thought she did an amazing job.”
After the majority of people had come through the gates, her group was given a break from the opening kick-off through the end of the halftime show.
“From the first floor of the stadium, we got to watch the game on a big screen,” said Lindsey.
She went back to work for the second half and the ensuing post-game celebration.
“When I was first helping people leave the stadium, there were a lot of upset Kansas City Chiefs fan,” reflected Lindsey. “Being in Tampa, it was great that the Bucs won because I knew that my school would go crazy. It was amazing to be part of something special.”
While she didn’t attend a party after the game, Lindsey enjoyed getting to see the Buccaneers hold their parade on Feb. 10. Due to the pandemic, the team opted to have a riverboat party instead of a celebration in the streets.
“My friends and I got to watch on the side of the Hillsborough River,” recalled Lindsey. “I saw (tight end) Rob Gronkowski dancing and (quarterback) Tom Brady throw the trophy to a guy on another ship.”
Lindsey was impressed with how the NFL managed to complete their season during the pandemic. She was actually diagnosed with COVID-19 in October of last year, but she recovered with the help of medicine and rest.
“I had the chills, fever, and a sore throat,” reflected Lindsey, who was diagnosed at the hospital. “To quarantine, the University of Tampa sets up hotels for on-campus students. It wasn’t fun being sick, but I was able to deal with it.”
As the world works to move out of the pandemic, Lindsey wants to balance her classwork with getting more internships.
She feels that her passion for the sports world comes from her family. Her father Tim is a Content Operations Manager at ESPN. Lindsey’s mother Maureen, who spent over 12 years working at ESPN, now fills the role of Operations Coordinator at Alleanza Partners.
“After graduation, I’d like to work in professional sports on maybe the social media side,” stated Lindsey.